Engaged Villagers in Senegal respond to CTI’s Tools

24 Mar

AliouMeghan Fleckenstein, CTI Communications Director

It’s 110 degrees and CTI’s team is being introduced to a rural village near Kaolack by our Senegal Program Manager, Aliou Ndiaye. Speaking in Wolof, the local language, Aliou addresses about two dozen villagers who’ve gathered to greet us under the shade of a large tree,

“For the past 10 years you have seen the same rate of yield in your pearl millet crop. You have good seed and good farming practices, but we cannot extend the land. We are here today look at how postharvest technologies can help feed your families. We can’t find the solution without you. We can’t improve our technology or help other farmers use it without you. So we have to make you work. We need you to tell us honestly how you feel about the technology, what you like and dislike, and how you think it can impact your village.”

A team of CTI staff and volunteers is in Senegal to work with our local partners on expanding the distribution and impact of our recently-launched Grain Tools. Over the past few weeks, CTI has delivered sets of tools (including a pearl millet stripper, thresher, winnower and grinder) to 15 villages in Senegal as part of a program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal of the project is to place the suites in different types of villages throughout Senegal and gather data on their use so we can focus our distribution efforts on reaching the communities that stand to benefit most from the tools.

Villagers Provide Feedback

The village we were visiting had recently received CTI’s tools and  we wanted to check in with the community to provide additional training and get their initial reaction. First, we spoke to the village women’s organization. While in Senegal, I learned that formal women’s organizations are very common in villages, and some communities even have more than one. They often run businesses and use their earnings to pay for school fees or to purchase things for the group.

Womens Group Leader

The president of the women’s organization, Ndeye Gueye, spoke on behalf of the group, “We are very happy about this technology. It is very useful. In the past we were using the mortar and pestle and now that we have this, we can reduce drudgery for women and save grain. This technology may be a small thing, but for us it is a big gift.”

Other community members—both men and women— gathered to offer advice for increasing the output of the technology and improving the grinder so it can process wet millet. The villagers also expressed how much they enjoyed using the grinder to make peanut butter and they hoped to earn money grinding for others. They explained that previously, the village had been using an expensive motorized grinder provided by another organization, but when the machine broke just two years after they received it, the women had to return to grinding their peanuts by hand. We hear this type of story far too often at CTI—money being spent providing communities with expensive, complicated machinery that rarely lasts more than a few years.

After spending more time with the community, as we prepared to leave, Aliou addressed the group a final time, and was clear and direct that our collaboration is a partnership that will require work and commitment on both sides. Aliou explained,

Village Leader

“We are very happy about this technology. Everything you see starts small and grows. We see this as just the beginning.” – Demba Aly Ba, Village Leader

“We came here to work together to find solutions for the whole nation. This is our proposal to you, but it is just a proposal. If you do not want to do this, we can go to another village. But if you want to use the technology and tell us how you honestly feel about it, then let’s get to work.”

At CTI, we never stop pushing ourselves to do better, to improve our process and our technologies, and we depend on communities to give their honest opinions rather than telling us what they think we want to hear. In Senegal, this has not been a problem. The women and men are smart, outspoken, and engaged.

In Nicaragua, locals lead the charge for clean, safe water

21 Mar

CTI team at our office1

Alexandra Spieldoch, CTI Executive Director

My biggest takeaway from my recent trip to Nicaragua is that CTI’s success with its Water Chlorinator is thanks to strong relationships. Our team in Nicaragua is absolutely committed to clean, safe water in support of a stronger country. And, they travel by bus, motorbike and even on foot to get our chlorinators installed where they are needed.

We work with organized water committees within villages, and it is with them that we have built our friendships. They take ownership of our technology. They pay for it, train to use it, and work with CTI to evaluate its effectiveness.

These water committees are autonomous bodies that have been organized throughout the country to implement the right to water. Each one has an executive committee to identify needs, make decisions and collect and spend money donated by the villagers themselves. This is not a small feat. Nicaragua has the second lowest GDP in the Americas after Haiti. There is little extra, but villagers know that the way forward has to be based on clean, safe water and healthy food.

Another important thing I learned is the way in which we are supporting women leaders at the executive levels  of the water committees.  In fact, women are often in charge of fund allocations as they are perceived to be more responsible.  When meeting one of the water committees in the coffee producing region of Matagalpa, I had the honor of meeting one of these woman leaders and her daughter

We are working in partnership with the Ministry of Health to support these water committees in their efforts and to double our impact over the next three years through more detailed monitoring, evaluation and promotion of the chlorinator.

Help turn ideas into impact at CTI’s Spring Benefit May 8!

7 Mar

At CTI’s Spring Benefit Dinner, we are celebrating the power of innovation—the transformation of an idea into impact! You can help empower communities with innovative food and water tools by joining us in Minneapolis on May 8 for a Senegalese dinner and an R&D runway show! If you’re interested in attending the event or hosting a table, contact Lee@compatibletechnology.org.

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The Most Powerful Tool of All

18 Feb

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CTI’s most valuable tool is not a grinder, nor a chlorinator, but it is something that can’t be built. In Nicaragua, CTI has spent many years BUILDING TRUST while installing our Water Chlorinators. By partnering with volunteer water committees in Nicaragua, CTI trains villages to install and maintain chlorinators to control the harmful bacteria in water. Together, CTI and Nicaraguan communities are eliminating waterborne illness while building strong collaborative relationships based on mutual trust and respect.

On a recent trip with CTI to Nicaragua, members of Project Redwood directly experienced the implementation of CTI’s work and saw the power of this partnership in action. Project Redwood is a foundation of the Stanford Business School Class of 1980 that supports international development projects that mitigate the causes and effects of poverty.

Project Redwood members reported that CTI infuses enthusiasm, respectfulness, passion, and dedication to clean drinking water among the extraordinary Nicaraguan people — and in the process they create a bond of trust. As one traveler wrote, “The positive and respectful relationship shared by CTI and local water committees is fundamental in the adoption of CTI’s systems in Nicaragua.” This relationship makes CTI’s Water Chlorinator all the more effective because technologies are only truly appropriate when there is trust between those who build it and those who use it.

With the great relationships between CTI and Nicaraguan villages comes more opportunity to reach CTI’s goal of providing clean drinking water to 250,000 Nicaraguans by the summer of 2014. Severe rural poverty and the prevalence of water-borne illnesses remain a threat to these communities, but CTI’s Water Chlorinator makes water safe and that is key to their health, vitality, and opportunity. Project Redwood’s experience confirms that livelihoods can improve with great technology and trust.

To find out more about Project Redwood’s experience with CTI in Nicaragua, read their blogs here.

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Sorcha Douglas is an intern from Macalester College, studying International Studies with a concentration in International Development and a minor in Environmental Studies.

 

 

 

Direct from the UN: Reducing food waste increases agricultural and economic resilience

8 Oct

WomenGrinding

The global food waste problem is enormous in scale. Recent estimates indicated that waste accounts for one third to one half of all current food production. Much of this loss comes from post harvest inefficiencies that have long lasting environmental and socio-economic consequences. Since most developing countries rely on agriculture as their main economic sector, addressing post-harvest loss can have a significant impact on poverty reduction, crop resiliency, and sustainability of rural livelihoods.

In recent reports stemming from the 68th General Assembly publications, the United Nations recommends that prevention of post-harvest food waste is key as well as investment and engineering in “relatively simple technologies which can provide effective solutions and dramatically reduce losses.” This is precisely where Compatible Technology International (CTI) comes in.

Cereal grains grown in developing countries traditionally incur up to 50% post-harvest loss due to spillage, poor separation and drying contamination, or storage. One particularly important grain is pearl millet, a drought resistant crop grown in Sub-Saharan Africa that is highly nutritious. With CTI’s Pearl Millet Suite, farmers capture more than 90% of their harvest, helping them produce millet flour ten times faster than by using traditional methods.

The tools are simple: a stripper, thresher, winnower, and grinder, all engineered for the needs of a small farmer.

For impoverished communities struggling in times of a changing climate, CTI’s Pearl Millet Suite, more efficient post-harvest grain production could be the difference between a thriving farm and going hungry for years to come. With less food waste, farmers can diversify their crops to increase their resilience in times of environmental stress and spend less time in the field, allowing for more economic opportunity to sell their increased yield.

The impact is enormous: Security for food can lead to increased security for many other aspects of life: education, healthcare, and increasing economic power.

Blog pic of Sorcha


Sorcha Douglas is an intern from Macalester College, studying International Studies with a concentration in International Development and a minor in Environmental Studies.

 

 

 

CTI welcomes new Executive Director!

18 Sep

Alexandra-de-CTI-avec-Marie-Mbaye--Coordonnatrice-du-CGC-de-Keur-Thième-Sawaré

We have exciting news!  We are thrilled to announce that our Board of Directors has voted unanimously to appoint Alexandra Spieldoch as CTI’s Executive Director. While serving as interim director over the past several months, Alexandra has been an outstanding leader for the organization.  Alexandra has many years of experience working in economic policy reform, food security and sustainable development. Check out Alexandra’s bio on our website.

Volunteers and Haitian students test shredder designs

4 Sep

shredding-breadfruit

Last year, two CTI volunteers, Larry Rauenhorst and myself, traveled to Haiti carrying two pieces of processing equipment: a shredder designed by CTI’s staff engineer and the latest iteration of a simple shredder that I had been working trying to perfect for several years. Larry and I set out to test and determine the reliability and usefulness of the equipment.

Through the years, CTI has partnered with Haitian organizations and people in an effort to help put Haitians to work processing an underutilized resource, a strange tropical fruit call breadfruit. The fruit grows on trees, mostly along the coast, are picked green (unripe), usually cut up, cooked and eaten like a vegetable. Much of the fruit simply rots and is wasted. CTI volunteers were asked if we could find ways of preserving breadfruit by shredding, drying and grinding breadfruit into shelf-stable flour, which could be made into useful products and help Haiti with better food security. Hand shredding of breadfruit is tedious, so enter myself and Larry, with our new shredders set to be tested.

We were hosted by the Agriculture College of the University of the Nouvelle GrandAnse in Jeremie, Haiti. While only about 100 miles from Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, reaching Jeremie took eight and a half hours over steep mountainous roads. The college provided us with three paid students, and together, we set out to process at least 2,000 pounds of breadfruit in fewer than ten work days.

Larry and I trained the students on processing the fruit to a stable, dry product. This entailed:

  • Cleaning the fruit and equipment river water that’s been disinfected
  • Each lot of ten fruit were weighed, peeled cored, shredded, and laid out to try (unusable peel and core were also weighed)
  • Shed samples were measured for thickness and length

The student teams processed 2,023 lbs of fresh breadfruit in eight days averaging 252.9 lbs per day. The amount of flour made from the ton of fresh breadfruit was 394 lbs.

How did the two shredders fare in the tests? The Mounir design worked wonderfully well and did almost all of the shredding. Red-faced Dave had to admit it was time to go back to the drawing board, make some important changes and perhaps shred another day.

What about the students? Did they continue to do what they had learned to do last year. You Betcha! The August issue of the college newsletter reports that two of the three students we worked with, Marie and Pierre, chose breadfruit processing as their required internship. During this summer alone they processed 215 dozen breadfruit or 6,450 lbs of fresh breadfruit. They now have three contracts with orphanages and schools in Port-au-Prince. They sell breadfruit flour for $2.00 (US) per 12 ounce bag plus shipping and handling. Package includes instructions, recipes and the story of how the breadfruit flour project developed.

Red face Dave, like Marie and Pierre, has learned from his experiences of last year. Previously I depended on others to test my shredder. For whatever reason I was not told of all the things that were wrong with it. I needed to discover those things myself. Stop in to CTI and see the Elton shredder I am now proud of.


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David Elton

David has been a volunteer with CTI for many years, focusing on developing breadfruit shredding technologies.

CTI Executive Director meets “superwomen” in Senegal

3 Sep

Alexandra-de-CTI-avec-Marie-Mbaye--Coordonnatrice-du-CGC-de-Keur-Thième-Sawaré

On a recent trip to Senegal, our Executive Director Alexandra Spieldoch met some real life “superwomen” — women who are farmers, mothers, entrepreneurs, and community leaders. Here she is with Marie Mbaye, Coordinator of a collective of women pearl millet farmers and community leaders in rural Senegal. Empowering and supporting women, who do the bulk of post-harvest labor, will be an important part of our work as we introduce our pearl millet tools in Senegal.

CTI awarded Feed the Future support!

22 Aug

Grain_Tools

Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, a program funded by USAID and implemented by Fintrac Inc., s helping CTI launch our newest innovation: a suite of tools designed to help developing world farmers increase their production of pearl millet grain.

CTI has received a grant to invest in manufacturing, local marketing, and sales of the tools in Senegal. Establishing a business model for the equipment in West Africa will enable us to deliver the tools to the farmers who need them in a way that’s efficient and sustainable.

Partnering for Innovation is a USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) initiative that supports the commercialization of agricultural technologies that can help smallholder farmers increase their productivity and competitiveness. In addition to USAID’s support, we recently received a separate grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to conduct long-term evaluation and impact monitoring of the millet tools in rural villages.

New Innovation Saves Africa’s Grain

CTI’s pearl millet suite — which includes a manually-operated stripper, thresher, winnower, and grinder — significantly increases farmers’ grain yields while minimizing the drudgery and food losses that occur with traditional hand-processing methods. Pearl millet is a major food source throughout the developing world and tools that help farmers improve its production can greatly strengthen food security for the global poor.

While field testing the prototype equipment in West Africa, farmers were amazed to see real and relevant solutions to their daily struggles — tools that can help them feed their families, earn a better living and invest in their communities. In Senegal, we met Cheickeh Dame, a well-respected farmer who remarked,

“In my father’s generation, the introduction of fertilizers was the boom. Those that were not early adopters or that didn’t believe this would help are no longer here.

As soon as these technologies are made available, I will be the first in line.”

We met countless other farmers like Cheickeh, men and women who never asked for handouts, only opportunity, and with the launching of CTI’s pearl millet suite in Senegal, we will make sure they have it.

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Village Enterprise collaboration creates thriving rural businesses

21 Aug

VEDemonstration

Villagers in rural Uganda are becoming small business owners as a result of a partnership between CTI and Village Enterprise (VE), a nonprofit that provides business skills training and support to entrepreneurs in some of the poorest regions of East Africa — in rural communities rarely served by microfinance groups.

In Uganda, VE distributes our grinders to small business groups, providing the groups with training and mentoring in business skills, savings and financial literacy. Recognizing that locals know their communities best, VE encourages the groups to develop their own business ideas. By empowering hard-working villagers with tools, training and support, the collaboration is helping those living in some of the world’s most underserved communities become thriving entrepreneurs.